When you call 911, you expect a fast response from the voice on the other end, but that wait time has been getting longer as agencies are struggling to hire enough operators to answer those calls.
This has been as issue here in the Upstate for at least a year now, but it's not just here. This is a problem all across the country, and it's growing.
These 911 dispatchers are our direct line to police, fire, and EMS so not being able to get on a line with them affects emergency response times in every community. In some situations- that's the difference between life and death.
Twana Wright has dispatched for Clemson University for 10 years. She's answered calls for Pickens County Sheriffs Office, Easley Police, and the University Campus, and she says she can think of a few reasons there's an industry shortage, "I think the stress of the job, having to work a lot of overtime. People think of first responders as police but actually the first responder is going to be us because we are the first one responding to your call, getting you the help that you need"
With more people flooding into the Upstate, deputies say the number of 911 calls are increasing, but the number of dispatchers is not. Averaging about a thousand calls per 12-hour shift, they could use all the help they can get.
Ryan Flood with Greenville County Sheriffs Office says Greenville dispatch has fielded over 600,000 calls this year, which was their total from last year, and 200,000 more than the year prior making wait times even longer.
"There are times were hearing where people call 911 and are placed on hold not getting their calls answered in a timely manner that's not our dispatchers fault. They're on the phone with other 911 callers."
What they need are more operators. Now more than ever with new technologies being added; they're not only dealing with calls, "We're now eventually going to go to texting. There's social media coming into play, there's just a lot of things, and crimes are just getting more and more", Wright tells us.
To compensate for the shortage the Sheriffs Office says they're working to increase pay as well as improve conditions, and while that may be an incentive to some many others say the reward is knowing you can help others.